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'You can be the best no matter what color you are' - Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic pay tribute to Nelson Mandela

Serena Williams (L) and Novak Djokovic (R)
Serena Williams (L) and Novak Djokovic (R)
Modified 26 May 2020, 00:14 IST

Two decades have passed since Nelson Mandela delivered one of the most influential speeches in sporting history, at the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards. On Monday, the 20th anniversary of that magical evening in Monaco, Serena Williams and Boris Becker recollected Mandela's words, while Novak Djokovic joined in to describe how the icon had inspired him.

On 25 May 2000, Laureus' First Patron Nelson Mandela stood alongside 24 legends of the sporting world and stated: "Sport has the power to change the world." 

He pointed out that it has the power to unite people and create hope where there was only despair. The former South African President added that sport could help in overcoming the deep-rooted problems of discrimination.

Serena Williams recalls meeting Nelson Mandela 20 years ago

Serena Williams is a five-time Laureus Award winner
Serena Williams is a five-time Laureus Award winner

Serena Williams had received a nomination for the Breakthrough of the Year award at the maiden edition of the Laureus Sports Awards. Although the American legend couldn't win that award, she did go on to capture the Sportswoman of the Year award in 2003, 2010, 2016 and 2018.

In addition, Serena Williams won the award for the Comeback of the Year in 2007. Taking a trip down memory lane and recalling the event that took place 20 years ago, Serena Williams described her meeting with Nelson Mandela with child-like enthusiasm.

“Being there in the crowd when Nelson Mandela was addressing us, was a really great experience," Serena Williams said. "The words he said about sport, it doesn’t matter what colour you are, you can still be the best. What struck me most about Mr Mandela was the fact that he knew everything about me, and I’m thinking ‘No, I know everything about you!' We just had an incredible conversation about things we wanted to do in the world, and it was a real changing point in my life.”

Serena Williams has won 39 Grand Slam titles in her career, of which 23 triumphs have come in singles competitions.


Novak Djokovic feels Nelson Mandela inspires every person on this planet

Novak Djokovic won his first Laureus award in 2012
Novak Djokovic won his first Laureus award in 2012

2020 Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic won the Laureus Sportsman of the Year award in 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2019. Like Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic had earlier received a nomination for the Breakthrough of the Year award, which he failed to win.

Novak Djokovic has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade and a half, and he has repeatedly talked about how embracing a philosophy of peace has helped his mental well-being. And one of the sources of inspiration in Novak Djokovic's journey is none other than Nelson Mandela.

“Nelson Mandela is one of those people that always brought the light. His strength to come out and fight for what is right is something that motivates and obviously inspires myself and every person on this planet," said Novak Djokovic.

Laureus Academy Member Boris Becker (who happens to be a former coach of Novak Djokovic), meanwhile, reflected on his two meetings with Nelson Mandela.

“At the Laureus World Sports Awards 2000 in Monaco and a holiday in South Africa in 2007, I had the honour to meet Nelson Mandela," Becker said. "To shake hands with him was for me a very special moment. For us Laureus Academy Members it is an honour that a personality as he stood behind the idea of Laureus and supported us as Patron.” 

Laureus has joined the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation launched a 'Sport for Good Response Fund' a few weeks ago, to provide support to young sportspersons in these testing times.

Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams have also done their bit to help the world tide over the crisis, perfectly embodying the words of Nelson Mandela.

Published 26 May 2020, 00:11 IST
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